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In this episode we discuss:
- The amazing story of Harlequins last season
- The role that culture plays in growing an organisation
- The growth of women’s rugby and how that’s helping the Quins brand
- Selling out games, memberships and hospitality and the problems (yes, probelsm) that causes
- Moving some games to Twickeham to build the brand
- The role the marketing funnel plays in selling rugby tickets
- Harlequins Amazon Prime documentary
- Working at The FA and how they use research to build the brand
- Woriing at UEFA and how commercially focused they are in marketing the game
- Working at the Cricket World Cup and managing the chaos of the final
- Starting a career at P&G in sales
- Lessons of brand building from P&G
Adrian is Chief Marketing Officer for Harlequins, one of the oldest rugby clubs in the world.
Based in Twickenham, the home of rugby, he is responsible for all marketing, communications, ticketing and supporter experience for the club.
With a background in sales and brand management from P&G, he has built a career in sport working at The FA, UEFA, Cricket World Cup and now rugby
Find Adrain on LinkedIn
Prep to Win on Amazon Prime
No Woman No Try on Amazon Prime
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Two years ago, this was the first episode with Jen Hoffman. https://eximomarketingstrategy.com/make-marketing-saas-y/
Andi Jarvis, Eximo Marketing.
This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.
Eyup and welcome to the Strategy Sessions. My name is Andi Jarvis. I’m the host of the show and the strategy director at Eximo Marketing.
Today I’m joined by Adrian Wells, the chief marketing officer at Harlequins Rugby. Stick around if you’re not a rugby fan. I say this every time I have someone sporting on the episode. We are passing away talking about sport, but we’re talking about broadcast rights research, brand building, fun engagement, lots of great lessons Andi culture as well that can run across all organisations. So please do stay. And Adrian’s got Procter and Gamble background and you’ll know, from anyone, I’ve had them before. Anyone who’s worked with PNG always worth listening to. So stick around for that. Just wanted to say it’s two years since I launched the podcast with an episode with Jen Hoffman. I’ll put a link in the show notes to save having to scroll all the way back. A lot has changed over that time. The show is kind of streamlined, it’s changed, evolved a little bit, but still kind of hopefully carries on with some of that same chaos energy that was there in the first episode.
Thank you very much to anyone who’s been along for the whole two years. Thank you to anyone who’s listening. If you’ve just been along now. Brilliant. Thank you. Lovely to have you here. I think in that time there’s 41 episodes now, pre recorded ones plus three live episodes. One of them focused on Black Lives Matter and two of them focused on agency stuff. Please do have a poke around the back catalogue. If you’re new here, and if you’re not new here, let me know what your favourite episode is. I’m always interested to see what lessons and what people took from each of the shows. Thank you very much to everyone who has listened Andi really as well. Thank you to everyone who’s been a guest. Everyone’s given up the time for free and it’s been brilliant to have them on. I’ve learned loads. I don’t care if anybody listens most of the time because I’m just enjoying what I’m doing. Hopefully that comes across as well, but I’m learning loads. Hopefully you’re learning loads from it and enjoying it. If you like it, share it with a friend. If you don’t like it, tell me why I’m at Andy Jarvis on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Best place to find me. You probably find me on Instagram as well. But anyway, send me a message, let me know what you think. Right. You’re listening to Adrian Wells. Let’s get on with him now, Adrian…
Eyup and welcome to the Strategy Sessions. My guest today is Adrian Wells, the chief marketing officer for Harlequins Rugby. Adrian, welcome to the show.
Hey Andi nice to be with you.
Lovely to have you. Absolutely lovely to have you. So I want to start with one of the craziest stories in rugby, which is Harlequin’s. Last season it was a season of two halves no better man. The man who basically masterminded the run to the title. Adrian Wells. Tell us all about what happened last year.
Yeah, it’s going to live long in the memory, I must say, a little bit of context. We’re one of the oldest rugby clubs in the world and a founding member of the RFU. But in our history, we’ve won the League once, so we’ve not been blessed with lots of silverware. And about halfway through the season last year, we were really languishing and you could see it in the body and behaviour of all of the players. We were mid table, we were drawing and losing games that we should have been winning and you could tell something wasn’t quite right. So we made a bit of a change. We parted ways with the head coach and rather than appoint a new head coach, we actually asked all of the existing the four other coaches to step up and take a level of responsibility. And we brought in the leadership group of the players and they just talked about how they want to play and who they want to be as a club. Andi there was a general sort of raising of level of responsibility across that group. And the players talked about the style. They wanted to play the Quinnsway, they want to play attacking rugby, they want to play rugby with a smile on their face.
Andi what we saw then start to come together was really connecting that Final 1% in the performance of the team and you could see the enjoyment and the expansiveness of the game. And we went on the most unbelievable run through the back end of the season, delivering some incredible performances and then culminating an unbelievable comeback or the biggest one ever in a semi final. We’re the only team that’s come from fourth to actually end up winning the title ultimately at Twickenham. And we were probably the ultimate game in the final in terms of the rugby was mental, so it was brilliant. But in the middle of all of that, it was a really interesting piece around who are we as a club. Andi we did a piece of work about our identity Andi our vision and our purpose. So we went and reviewed with a load of the existing key players, coaches, support staff about what it was that we had previously, what made Quinn special, what made it magic to be here and what was the point of difference. And what we uncovered was something really about our vision and purpose, why we play and what makes us come together as a club Andi make us different.
Exeter are a great parallel, really strong ethos. And we just lost a little bit of that identity. So we defined it, we set our vision, we defined our purpose. And we talked about true the acronym that makes our club click and that’s about teamwork, it’s about relationships, it’s about being unconventional and it’s about enjoyment and we launched that throughout the men’s side of the club, the women’s side of the club, and then all of the administration team around us. So the whole club bought in true and who we are as a club and where we’re going. And that all came to life around about the same time as we were reconnecting from a coaching Andi playing side Andi in the final couple of months of last season, it was really incredible to see it all gel and we went on to win both the men’s and the women’s Premiership. So it’s been a bit of a turnaround story, really, but, yeah, doubling the Champions at the end of that journey was remarkable. And on the back of COVID it was just a really uplifting experience.
I think there’s a parallel there to take into wider business, because there’s been a lot of non rugby fans listening to this and when you look at that, you have the same group of players who were mid table mediocrity. Probably a bit harsh to call it mediocrity. Professional was a tough game, but they were a mid table, mid to low table team. But by galvanising them Andi getting the culture right and getting the purpose right, that took them on a winning run. Now, in business, sometimes culture gets sneered a little bit, doesn’t it’s? The soft stuff, it’s the wishy washy. Who cares what get out there and do sales or do whatever it is. But that’s what galvanised everybody together and took a middling team to be a champion team was organising the culture and letting people take ownership of that 100% Andi think.
Quite often, brands are good at writing a vision statement or brand purpose. People ecomm in more in tune with getting to that and the why. But the magic that sort of unlocks that and makes you live and breathe every day. The culture that you really want to embed in the organisation, that’s the really tricky bit to continually come back to. So we’ve written through into our new recruitment process and we hired a new head coach. When we hire new employees, we put a branding around our office, we talk about it, we measure ourselves against it. We just yesterday announced our sort of ten employees of the year. And they’re the people that lived and breathed and demonstrated true, actively. Andi the most. We’re trying to really make sure that this is something that we live and breathe every day.
Andi it’s interesting you mentioned being on the wall, because I was about to say something scathing about organisations that just have the values on the wall. But I suppose we both know that there’s a big difference, isn’t it, between just sticking them on the wall and actually bringing them to life, which is all the other bits that you’ve talked about, because the number of places you walk into and you’re like, oh, the values are on the wall. Wonderful does anyone believe them? Can anyone remember them? Does anyone know them? It’s amazing how many I ask people, what’s your mission statement.
Buzzwords as well. That doesn’t really mean anything. There’s sort of Americanized jargon.
I can feel my pain in there. My other favourite is quality being used in a mission statement Andi that’s just the ticket to the game, right? If you want to play in this game, you’ve got to have quality. You can’t just pedal rubbish and then stay quality because we put it in our mission. Let’s get down into what this really means.
We’ve got a flag as you enter our office area and as everybody, every employee joins and we learn about true, we go through it, you sign the flag Andi you effectively sign up to be part of this club. And the idea that flag will grow and grow over the years and that’s once you’re a Queen, you’re always a Quinn as our internal ethos.
Brilliant. Andi that’s what you do to bring it to life. That transforms the culture of the club, isn’t it? Andi that transformation is running through everything from success on the field, which look has its ups and downs, but there’s also a huge amount of success being generated off the field on the back of this refocusing to true. Andi know, from looking at some of your LinkedIn posts Andi some of the press that surrounded it, you’ve been so successful in the last couple of months Andi years that you’ve actually caused yourself problems. Is that a fair way of reporting it?
Yeah. There’s no doubt that when you come by way with the silverware, you’ve got a booster effect, but you got to have the foundations right as well around the rest of the club and all the business. So we’ve had an unbelievable year, but I think due to the sound work across the club to put those foundations there. So we sold out every single home game this season for the men. We just had a poor season ticket membership for the first time ever because we’re frankly not having enough seats in the Stadium. We’ve got to get that balance of new people coming in and experience Andi having a trial driver for our own brands, record, hospitality and commercial income. We’ve moved our women to now playing at the Stoop and trying to drive a bit more quality. And then we’ve done a bit of work at Twickenham Stadium, trying to grow the game and be a bit of a showcase. So putting men and women’s double header, we set a world record for the women there and we’re trying to do a bit of work around entertainment and grow the sphere of influence of rugby Andi the visibility of club rugby.
So it’s been phenomenal to be part of that this year. And I think we’ve learned a little bit from trial and error and fine tuning the plan that we can live with losing games now I don’t think we will lose our fan base Andi our digital success on the basis of losing or drawing games. We’re building a proper listening to our supporters and focusing on engagement and how we interact with them on a match day and off the pitch digitally. I think we’re putting in foundations here that will serve as well for the future.
I want to dive into almost every one of those elements one by one. So first of all, finishing about starting with what you’ve just finished with. Should I say I haven’t worked in sports marketing before? Many years ago when I had a full head of hair and no beard, it was a constant bug bear of mine that if you sold out a game and we didn’t sell out that many, but we sold out some. In cricket it was always because you were playing great opposition and when the crowd wasn’t what was expected, it was always the marketing team’s fault for not doing enough. It’s always the same in sport. When there’s a sell out, it’s because of the great team. When it’s not selling out, it’s because you all aren’t doing enough. I take it with the true mentality at Queens. That’s not the way it’s discussed there, but it is the sort of thing that comes around sport markets and you’ve been around long enough to know that as well.
Yeah, for sure. And again, will that winning rugby and winning sport and dramatic victories. We’ve become a bit accustomed to definitely help. Your product is really strong, but the communication and the marketing around that is vital. I think we’ve really focused on first party data Andi trying to make sure we don’t have big budgets. We can’t buy our way through a tricky to sell match. So whenever we’ve managed to grow our audience and find new ticket buyers or through competitions, we’ve got various different mechanics of trying to drive ballots and data capture. We are building a deeper pool of first party data that we can understand who our fans are and communicate to them at the right time. And then we’re building overlaying on top of that ticket strategy like an early bird ticket window and priority waiting lists, and we’re trying to drive within their urgency Andi a priority based plan that you can actually unlock them a little bit of loyalty and engagement.
Yeah, Andi getting tickets early is the gold part of that as well, isn’t it? People who buy early so you know where you are in cricket, especially when people who waited to see if the sun was out on the day of the game with the bane of your life, you couldn’t put stewards on for it, you couldn’t get ticketing ready for it slightly different in rugby because hopefully people don’t wait Andi to see if it’s windy or rainy first. But getting people to buy early and create that demand and that drive for tickets is brilliant to be able to get it’s.
So tempting, though, to discount. You’ve got those empty seats and you know that they’re going to spend a ten or ahead on the beer and the burger when they get in there. That little drive to just half price it or two for one. So we’ve really had to sort of firm up our strategy the last 1218 months as we come out of Co, is we’re not going to do that. First price is best price. You want to be in there getting early Andi it works. When you can just about fill your Stadium, then you fill it. That strategy hard when you’ve got everybody knows you’ve got a lot of empty seats. So I think we found ourselves in a good place now. And actually what we really need to do now is find more capacity.
Which is not easy to do, although we’ll come up, I suppose we’ll come on the capacity in a minute. You’ve got Twitter just over the road. We’ll talk about that. But the other bit you talk about with the women’s team as well, and the growth of the women’s game is women’s sport generally is phenomenal and brilliant to see. But at Queens there’s a world record, as you’ve said, that. How does that change what you do from a marketing perspective Andi what are the opportunities that having a great women’s team, competitive women’s team, gives you?
So we’ve been a bit of a pioneer, I guess, of women’s rugby. Our women’s team was formed in as recently as 95 and it just shows you the trajectory that the women’s club rugby has been on. And we’ve consistently over invested in the programme, putting the welfare programme around there, the facilities in there, the kit, the visibility. In the last few seasons, we’ve really now begun to start seeing the uptick in interest and engagement. So with three years now, we’ve had what we call the game changer. So we create a moment in time, one match, we bring it into the stoop and we try to drive visibility of women’s sport Andi a PR programme around growing engagement of women’s professional sport and rugby as a heartland there. And then at Christmas time, our annual big game event, which is a sellout at Twickenham Stadium, we turned into a double header. So it was the first time ever that we’ve had a women’s club rugby game at the home of rugby. So it was an amazing experience and from that we drove a world record attendance just for the women. And then the men’s game came later on in the day.
So we’re trying to build the two things, but we’re trying to use the men as a bit of a trial driver for the women. We need people to experience this new product and then what we’re generally finding in the feedback is this is really strong, like, these are incredible players and the pace of the game, but it’s not easy to see a women’s rugby game on TV. There’s a little bit of streaming that’s happening now, so we need to try and drive that visibility. So double headers and cross fertilisation across platforms via social media really crucial for us to grow our audience base. And this year has just seen multiple records drop across the League and across the women’s six nations, with more people now getting into watching this, either buying a ticket or watching on TV. So with the World Cup coming up this autumn out in New Zealand, we can’t wait. Next season just looks so promising for us and we really want to capitalise on that and just kind of continue to see that growth.
Andi these moments like World Cups and international events are huge jumping off points to capture a new audience because they get a different level of national media interest on these big tournaments, which then you can capitalise on and drive down across the rest of the game.
Yeah, I’m purely looking at TV for the last World Cup has over 1.5 billion TV viewers. If you look at six nations game, typically it’s 15 million if you go to a typical Premiership game with club rugby anywhere from 50,000 up to 250 on BT Sport. So the drop off, if you look at it one way, is enormous or the opportunity is phenomenal. So we’re in a good place now that Premiership rugby has got like a dual strategy. We’re at a pay wall with BT Sport Andi working closely with them, and then there’s a few matches now on ITV Andi a free to air route. So our real vision here is to grow awareness of the club rugby, try and build some heroes, and we’ve got a few of them in the likes of Marcus Smith and Joe Marler and Danny Care, and try and grow the level of engagement with our club, our brand, through those key ambassadors, and sort of build a following behind that brilliant.
As we go back through your career, the listeners won’t know what we’re coming to the next, but I do. So I’m going to keep Brandon Spot for later on when we come to that, because I think we could talk about that in an interesting way there. The other bit you talked about was commercial income, which is a huge driver for all professional sports teams. And Rugby’s, I suppose, always had a good background in entertainment. I suppose I’m caricaturing a little bit and coming from an old rugby League background of kind of well heeled individuals, always wanting a bottle of wine and a nice meal before the game. But that only takes you so far, doesn’t it? Andi think what you’ve done at Quinns is professionalise Andi take that up another level. I think it’s happening all across rugby as well.
Yeah. If you look at a cricket audience and a rugby audience, typically you’ve got a middle aged white male fan base and what we’ve been desperately trying to do is diversify and grow the club in the future. So we’ve done that in, I guess, a couple of different ways. One is we tried to take rugby to a wider mass and we focused initially on our community and music and sport and entertainment fans. So we’ve got a couple of Twickenham events, which we price deliberately low. So it’s 29. 50, starting from for a full day of entertainment, the double header of rugby of men’s and women’s. Andi then we had Pete Tong on at Christmas for the Laser Light show. We’re going to have Craig David on next weekend big summer kick off. So we’re trying to create something which is, even if you’re not a core rugby fan, it’s something you feel is quite accessible and engaging Andi really, again, comes back to that trial that you might then go into repeat and either you come back to the soup and watch a game in the future, or one day a member, or you might be more casual and watch on TV, or just follow the club a little bit more around the edges.
There’s some brilliant stuff there that we are growing our audience at a rapid pace, so our digital following is nearly bubbled now in the last two years, so we’re on a good trajectory, but the opportunity is enormous.
You’re almost dangerously talking about marketing through funnel approach there, aren’t you? Between digital audience down to sampling the product, coming more frequently, becoming a member and taking it through to being a loyal fan. It’s as if the funnel really exists in marketing, isn’t it? And people keep writing on blogs that it’s dead amazing. Anyway, moving on, it’s just me whinging. So Twickenham is happening next week, but that’s last week by the time you come to listen to this episode. So don’t get confused by time travel. We’re just recording this about a week earlier before the broadcast. So you’re going to Twickenham, not Twickenham, you’re going to Twickenham the big ground. You’ve got Craig David. And this is all about just adding capacity to what you can do. And also that sampling, but it must also be a bit of a risk sometimes when you look at that and go, Right, okay, we’ve got higher costs, all our costs go up. Ticket sales have to go up and they jump quite significantly. Don’t in terms of numbers of bumps on seats that you need to know.
Yeah, I guess we’ve taken a bit of a long term view on this. So a sold out Quickenham Stadium is the equivalent profit to us as every single home match at the Stoop. So if you get it right, it’s a huge commercial driver and a huge fan base builder, so we really want to do it. Clearly, these things Andi new concept takes a little bit of time to embed. So in year one, I think we’re tracking somewhere around 50,000 tickets at the moment, which is brilliant, Andi we will kick on from that in the next two to three years. And we’ll get quickly to a sold out model, and we hope to have two events per year where we’re getting 82,000 people into there. And then the real trick then is to then understand who those people are and be able to interact with them. And first party data again becomes a really cool part of that, which is, I think, where digital technology is really becoming quite helpful for us now with some of the digital ticketing and tools where you’re genuinely helping the supporter, but you’re also now being able to know who they are and have their permission to interact and engage with them.
That makes those events there. When you’ve got 82,000, did you say people come to these events just incredible. And a lot of the other clubs are looking at, I think Newcastle Falcons have looked at St James’s Park or maybe have played there and there’s a few other clubs looking at that model. There’s a phenomenal amount of work in there, but you can see the opportunity is what makes it worthwhile.
Yeah, we’re all, I think, desperate to grow the supporter base. It’s challenging when you’re on a pay TV channel, trying to grow visibility and getting new people inspired and engaged around your sport is difficult, and that needs to be done with a bit of a balance through the strength of the brand of the clubs and the storytelling you do and the players. Andi it all needs to come together. So we think that balance of of them, sport and entertainment feels like the right place to be, but it’s difficult finding data points sometimes that really support you. There’s a little bit of intuition and a bit of risk taking that I think is required to sort of sit alongside that with your CV.
Which we’ll talk about shortly. That intuition comes with a lot of experience Andi expertise behind it to hopefully make those calls the right way. But it sounds like there’s still the odd nervy moment to go with it too.
For sure. Club rugby financially is in a challenging position, so it is difficult to make big, bold decisions. If you haven’t got lots of data support you, most of the clubs are lost making. So it’s very much about making calculated plans, learning from them, building and growing year by year.
It’s an interesting point you make there, because professional rugby has by a lot of markers being a huge success, from the sort of amateur pies and pints sort of game to the professional opportunity and experience it is now for fans in great stadiums watching great rugby. But if you look at a different set of data points, how many of these clubs turn a profit? Very limited, if any. How many of them are haemorrhaging huge amounts of money? It’s quite a worrying number, isn’t it? So the financial model of professional rugby doesn’t necessarily stack up all that well, does it?
No. So a Premier League football model is roughly 80%. Revenue comes from TV and 20% through tickets and sponsorship and licencing, et cetera. And rugby is almost flip of that. So by its very nature, the TV deal secured across the League will be a huge driver. So that needs a competitive marketplace that drives some of the work that’s happening with PRL at the moment, having like an OTT platform, et cetera. But in the areas control Andi controllables, I guess what we can do on a match day is on our own pricing, make sure that we’re full have a 365 day calendar events and things across our Stadium and to keep your cost pace and your income as best place as you can.
Yeah, absolutely. But you’re also doing other things which are to go with the unconventional, the You Andi True that are helping to raise the profile, build the Queen’s brand, but also stretch the rugby brand generally into new audiences, particularly. I’m talking about the new Amazon documentary that’s coming out. There’s been a few of these in different sports clubs. Tottenham, Sunderland, the Aussie cricket team. Anyway, there’s a number of them. So how did that one come about at Quinn’s?
Well, we’ve actually had a couple and we’re working on a couple more in the background as well. So I’ll focus on the men’s ones we’ve been working with. Beno abandoned England forward and the film producer in his spare time, and he worked with Amazon Prime to help create a series, a three part documentary series about Harlequin called Prep to Win. And it was about really the defence of our title. So it was a preseason set up where we come in and we told the story and we worked with Ben O to choose around 13 of our players. That represented a really diverse set of characters Andi not just the biggest names, but some of the up and coming guys on a scholarship, guys with challenging personal backgrounds and stories. Andi the deal with us and Bennet really was that we saw this as a huge platform for visibility and engagement. So we agreed some sort of terms of editorial approval Andi rights and things like that. And then really we work with him to give him as much access as we can and to really support him to spend time with those players and really unearth their stories.
So then he goes away and works his magic and we have a three part story and we’ve just launched that now an amazing amount of interest that’s driven around our club and the way we will then commercialise that now is around. The higher interest in the club is great from a commercial partners who are already associated to us or might be in the future around our players Andi their IP. So we were very much focused on that place rather than trying to drive an income directly from the film with Dennis, but that’s perfect for us. Andi we’ve done something similar on the women. There’s no Woman, No Cry from Victoria Rush and one of our players, Shauna Brown place Ringland created a one part documentary around equality in sport and trying to have a further development around women’s sport and women’s rugby in particular. So we’ve gone down a slightly different sphere, rather than just about the performers. This is very much around making a statement and trying to drive change in sport. So we’ve got now a couple of more projects coming down the line, hopefully within the next year. But these are huge for us because we’re suddenly able to get outside a normal audience, engage people and really take rugby to a non core rugby audience.
It might be a surprise to some people or to hear that Beno doesn’t actually play for Queensland, does he plays for one of the other Premiership teams. So I mentioned unconventional, but to be trusting enough to bring in a player from other team within the camp, not far from access all areas, to be able to sort of poke around and record what’s happening. It’s quite an unusual move, isn’t it, to go down that route, but a really successful one for you.
He plays for Bath, who are one of our big rivals, really, and a very competitive team normally. So we had to set some parameters about some of the content. Couldn’t be capturing anything tactical like line out plays and things like that, but the cameramen are around those sort of things. They’re in our team meetings, they were around our training grounds. There’s absolutely a complete level of trust there, but we just calculated with Beno that with bit of honesty and openness between us, that rugby would be the real winner. And although the documentaries about Harlequins actually would benefit all of us. So, yeah, we bought into that and he’s just a top guy. He’s very workable, I think.
Having somebody who’s really passionate about the subject matter, not that in TV production you don’t necessarily need to be, but knowing that he was going to bring that to the production would benefit the whole game generally. To be able to see that, we’ll put a link in the show notes to it on Amazon Prime to be able to get in and have a watch of that. But I just thought the process was really interesting because a lot of teams can be quite protective about their team environment and not want anybody breaching that trust environment within the team.
It’s one of the big things I find different from working in football. So FA experience Andi working with some of the clubs. The clubs are fiercely protective Andi very closed and segmented across different hierarchies and departments in a rugby sense. We’re all beginning to come to the plan that we need to grow this game together. So there’s a programme of collective insights now where we share data and ticketing information across all of the clubs. So we’re understanding the trends, we’re understanding how to grow an audience. We have workshops around how to engage a youth audience or to grow women’s rugby, how to sell out our big matches. We’ll share learning from how we sell out quick in them. And we genuinely all believe that our fans are pretty tribal. They’re not going to be a fan of the other person’s club, so we’re not really competing with each other.
Brilliant. I love to see that, because you’re all doing something different, aren’t you? And rugby fans are very tribal. They may pop in to see someone else’s club if they’re on holiday nearby, if they’re up in Newcastle, might go watch the Falcons. It’s not going to be a Falklands fan, they’re just going to watch a bit of rugby and have a beer, usually. So it’s really interesting that sharing is going along, but you’ve also segued beautifully. It’s almost as if we prepare this in advance, isn’t it? Into some of my next questions about your early career in sport. So you mentioned the FA and the both bodies, which are political, they have such big constituencies, everyone feels like they have ownership of them and they work in such big ways that there must have been really interesting places to work at the FA. First of all, as head of group marketing, was that what was that like? Because the FA always seems to be going through some sort of interesting time Andi said.
Euphemistically, yeah, it was an amazing journey. So I joined after ten years of Procter and gamble and the FA were deliberately targeting somebody from outside sport. And I’ve continually tried to hire from outside sport, as well as build an internal trying to build a bit of the structured Andi process driven training that most people would learn from Mars or a Unilever Procter and Gamble and then overlay that with the passion and interest of sport. Andi that was really the focus of my time at the FA, was there for the best part of a couple of years, trying to build brand plans with a clear vision, objectives, integrating communications, integrating commercial partner activation plans and sort of moving away from the traditional role of marketing made assets. Communications dealt with the press and the problems that were out there, and sponsorship were just selling rights. So we began to build our brands Andi our products collectively like that. So it was an amazing time to be there. And you still had the old sort of bureaucracy, I guess, from the outside, but then you had a very forward thinking exec, I think, under Alex Hall, the chief exec at that time, began to write a new, commercially led vision to help grow the game across all levels.
So I loved it. It was a brilliant place to work.
I said earlier, I’d come back to talking about brand management. I think the thing with the FA is it’s a national institution and people care about it, genuinely care about it. Like they care about Royal Mail, the BBC, the NHS. It’s kind of up there in terms of what people feel about the brand, but it’s also a sports team that wins or loses. And often you see in a sporting context, when an organisation starts talking about brand planning and about growing fan bases Andi things like that, when you win in nobody cares when you’re losing, it becomes, well, the organisation is wasting millions on brand planning and wanting to do X, Y and Z. Does it become difficult to work there when that’s happening? Or is it the clear vision from the executive that’s keeping everything going for you?
It’s definitely when there’s a crisis, they frequently are. In football, it’s hard to manage. But a bit of the brand work we did there was to segment out the FA versus individual brands. So traditional pieces we did was split England from the FA. So the FA, and our research told us was seen as the organisation that was running the game, was handing out the fines, was producing the referees and managing the game, Andi then England, obviously, around performance teams. So we began to sort of split those pieces out quite deliberately. And then the different brands and participation programmes that we’ve got commercial partners to link to, each of them would have a distinct audience, a distinct vision and set of priorities and objectives and planning. So it was really a bit not dissimilar from running Procter and Gamble or even Unilever is maybe a better example where you have a mother brand and then the separate brands around there.
You mentioned research there as well, Andi researching sport must be, I suppose it seems, to hit sport a little later than in other areas of business, but a crucial driver to decisions you’ve been making for ten years in sport.
Andi really, I think the tendency for most sports is to under invest in research and development, because it’s one of those that feels like if you’re not making a lot of money, it feels expendable and you’ve got enough knowledge with the organisation and you can do a little bit of work on the ground. I think what we found is spending genuine time continually assessing who the participants are, who the key stakeholders are listening to their opinions, drives a better understanding, drives a better, ultimately an image piece for you, as well as driving smarter commercial insight that is then unlocking further investment. So, yeah, I think it’s been absolutely crucial Andi there’s a sliding scale of what you can afford. Uafer is almost the ultimate we spend millions on our broadcast analysis, on our sponsor impact reports, and we would do it to make sure that we go back every year with a really solid report proving that you had an over delivery of what you were paying for. That would drive a renewal conversation easily at a boardroom of a partner via broadcast or response.
So your waiver must have been like the FIA on steroids. You wave. It feels like one of those organisations that’s closer to the Vatican than anything else I can think of. It operates across state borders with all sorts of problems that kind of regularly, frequently clashes with FIFA, but there just seems to be so many political angles to what goes on within UEFA. What was that like working there? It must have been really fascinating.
Yeah, I enjoyed it. It’s incredibly commercial, but keep in mind that it doesn’t make money. Almost all of that flows back to its clubs and its members and through programmes, participation. So in a way, that’s absolutely fine in a positive sense. But I was there in the Platini years and then Infantino, who took over from him and you could see the difference in the structure when it was there. Platinum. It was extremely layered and quite bureaucratic and slow. I would put forward papers and presentations that would go into a proposal board that would be taken to a committee of that past. It would go into the next committee and ultimately Putini would sign it off with an executive. It was slow and deliberate, but the vast sums involved and the impact of the decisions were made. We’re driving smart decisions, but not rapidly.
Yeah, I did read somewhere this is probably before your time at UFO Andi don’t know who the person was involved, but there was a couple of commercial people who drove UFO to keep them relevant more than anything else. But that four sponsored model of the Champions League or the European Cup as well. It’s easy to look at it now Andi kind of these three or four key partners and think, oh, yeah, that’s just how you do this. But it was quite radical at the time and they kind of lent on the IOC’s model of a package of partners for the Olympics. Nobody had really done that in football. You had the sponsor of the competition and that was it. And that really drove commercial revenue to a different level. And the TV deal, I wish I could remember where I found that and where I read it, but it was really interesting how it sort of revolutionised what you did from a commercial point of view. So what you’re saying is when you dropped in there, that commerciality is definitely still running through the organisation, for sure.
And actually the parallel. So the UASA story was they formed a partner agency called Team Marketing based out in Switzerland, who consolidated all the sponsorship rights and broadcast rights and would sell on their behalf in the market. So that’s when you could see a Pepsi or an Abidas across all of the boards, all the matches, all the stadiums, the broadcast sponsorship rights, and that was really unlocking the revenue because it had enough scale to it and that I believe is the journey that rugby is on at the moment. So CDC one of the key investors in the sport and are now beginning to buy the various properties in club rugby and international rugby URC in six Nations Premiership rugby. What I think will happen in the future is that sort of consolidation of ripe and then selling them back on a broadcast and a commercial partner basis to generate incremental revenue.
And you also had a really, I don’t know the dream job I suppose for me Andi still hate you for having this job. But at the cricket World Cup. But I’m going to jump back to talk about research before we talk about the cricket World Cup. We had Stuart Robertson, who was the he doesn’t take the credit for inventing 2020 cricket, but he was integral to its formation with the research that the ECB Andi England Wells Cricket Board did at the time to find out what people wanted to create the 2020 product and drive cricket forward commercially from there. Andi it looks at least to me that even though the World Cup was a 50 over World Cup, that move from cricket to be more commercial Andi more fan base has driven through the sport and changed it over the last ten years, which must have meant a great time to join for the World Cup.
I absolutely loved it. It was just a phenomenal tournament to be part of. When I joined it was a couple of years ago and we were really forming a cricket World Cup team. So there was nothing. And actually I sort of expected would be a Bible that ecomm from the previous World Cup in Australia Andi New Zealand. This is it. Here’s your timeframe, here’s your organisational structure, your resource plan of what you need and effectively your roadmap to go and deliver the World Cup. And really we didn’t get any of those things. We formed a team. We decided how many people we would want, what our objectives would be, a build up to the tournament, how much we will focus on grassroots and inspiring the next generation by partnering with the ECB Andi you’re really planning and prepping the tournament. So we used it as a real chance to sort of document everything and pass on to India, the next host of the World Cup, of how to run the tournament and then hopefully that evolves and build for the future. But the two years building up to the tournament were just phenomenal. A lot of planning and preparation and getting everything ready Andi selling all the tickets and then an absolute whirlwind.
Once the tournament started, it was super intense. Anybody that’s worked at the Olympics or any of those, I begin to understand a little bit what it’s like. It was just so full on and then obviously England won and you just can’t script that stuff.
This is the thing, Adrian right. You worked at the World Cup with the most bonkers, bizarre final ever. You were at Quinn’s with the most bonkers, bizarre semi and final ever. It’s just you, isn’t it? Across this.
If Donna’s listening at Tottenham come and hire me.
We can do this.
That’s where you want to go now. We got to get spurs to the finals again. We’re not here to talk so much about the cricket, more about the business of cricket. But the World Cup final was just ridiculous and ended up on Channel Four being shown to a national audience. How do things like that come about when you’ve got a right holder who’s to broadcast it? England get to the final Andi all of a sudden the right holder just doesn’t just sign the rights away, surely to let go onto terrestrial TV while you’re flying the plane and doing all sorts that’s going on there, that must be quite a lot going on in the background to make all those things happen.
There are. Andi in fairness, the broadcast rights were managed by the ICC, but there’s a real sort of braveness there and you see it from the Champions League, enabling free YouTube viewing of the finals, their prime product. They give it away for free. Effectively, they’re using that to drive trial. Emma Radikan, who being bought by Channel Four. It’s a brilliant purchase of a key event like that. And then for us at Cricket World Cup, when that was picked up and it was the same day, actually clashed with that epic Wimbledon final as well. So the agreement that you allow the rights to be purchased in that particular market then certainly has some revenue to it, but was huge for driving visibility of the sport of the event and hopefully inspiring a bigger audience. So there’s a bit of an investment there that you’re going to have a bigger sport and a higher value in the future. If you looked on a fuel monetary sense as a cricket fan.
And anyone who I’ve bought on this podcast over the last couple of years will know that I’m a cricket fan. I ended up having to go out for a couple of hours in the afternoon with the in laws and snuck away and watched an hour of cricket in a bookies because it was the only place I could find it, just as it was getting to the business end of the game. So I’m just glad it was on terrestrial TV. And then I found a pub with it on later on to watch the super over. So absolute chaos. So maybe you are the catalyst for this. So it’s Tottenham hot spur next to get the spurs to win the League.
Well, the funny thing for the end of the World Cup was we had a load of plans of what next. How do we then try and capture the magic of this and try and get schools engaged Andi keep the cricket and the spirit of the World Cup alive and effectively did a brilliant job of getting a trophy out there. Andi we just needed to show some of those things. The press all over us and you can’t plan for those things. It was just the perfect way to finish a brilliant two and a half years.
Right. And you mentioned Channel Four, where the broadcast partner for the cricket and for Emeridikano Andi taking those chances there, which also is my jumping off point to go back to talking about Proctor and Gamble. So Zed Alkisab, who you also know was on, he’s the chief marketing officer at Channel Four, also Procter and Gamble. We’ve had Dan Rubell on a long time ago from Ex, Proxy and Gamble. You sort of came through there and had your formative years in marketing working there. What was that like?
I started in sales and then moved into shopper marketing and ultimately sales. I look back at it now and it was unbelievable. We were 20 year old kids going out into local stores and telling these seasoned guys have been running their stores for years and years about how to lay out their packs of Pringles and which colour sells the most and the flavours. Andi in fairness, they could have told us where to go and they sort of listen. But the sort of training that went into that, I still remember so clearly how to sell and that sort of sticks with me. And the brand building framework took me across out to Russia and Saudi Arabia, Middle East and down to South Africa and Israel, places like that. And those things just don’t leave you. The theory is absolutely spot on. Andi for me, the real benefit of working for one of those big companies was the over investment in our training and development Andi building understanding and strategy and real theory before you’re out there actually doing it and running with it. Because working in a business like sport, the emotion takes over a little bit of time and you can see the fan base having a bit of structure behind it Andi a bit of a plan.
I think it’s what gives you the ability to build a sort of long term growth plan rather than just win or lose.
Can I ask you to pull the curtain back a little bit on some of the lessons of that, say the brand building structure and the theory that you got behind that can pull the curtain back a little bit? Because Fructose Andi Gamble, one of the great marketing companies in the world, what were the sort of things that you look for when you’re looking to build a brand? What are the pillars that you have to build that around?
So for me, the who, what and how who is this for? What are you going to tell them? How are you going to bring that to life? It’s just absolutely defined how we build a proper marketing plan that’s really ROI based and truly focused so that I continually come back to. And it’s so simple, but actually you’re not really taught it anywhere else. You don’t see it anywhere else is anyone you begin to think like that and then how we continually measure performance and come back to fine tuning plans and having an annual plan and a bit more of a long term vision. So just having some sort of structure rather than just evolution, I think is really important.
Andi having that sort of frontline sales role, moving into marketing, do you feel that would have benefit? I saw Mark Rich in another form. I guess they do the day marketing and sales are the same thing, separated by time, which I thought was a lovely way of putting it. You could probably find pork holes in it, but it was just a beautiful way of putting it. But did you find that sales grounding was a great place to jump into the marketing side of PNG?
Yeah, I really enjoyed it Andi think it does give you a really more rounded picture. When I joined the FA, the chief executive at times said marketing as a cost centre Andi part of the role there was to try and transform that into actually, this is a core growth pillar for the organisation. I think if you’re purely focused purely on brand equity and pure positioning, that will only take you so far. Most of the sport, I think, is a bit more of a blend of trying to think most of the clubs in most of the sports really need to focus on money generation. So having a broad mindset of what commercially is going to work as well as build a brand feels like the right mix.
Yeah. Pull those two together. I think someone said you’re a commercial marketer and I think they were trying to say that I don’t have a creative born in my body, which is fine, I’m terrible with that. But I think too many marketers shy away from the fact that at the end of it, we have to make money for the organisation. Some things might look pretty, they might look great, but we’re not selling things. We’re not really doing our job. Whether it’s tickets or lumps of wood or widgets or whatever, we’ve got to get them out the door. Otherwise you run out of money before anything else happens.
Yeah. We’re in the business of sport, right. It’s about driving engagement and the fan base, but ultimately it’s also about delivering commercial income that sustains the club and enables you to grow and inspire the next generation of players and fans.
Yeah. Andi you mentioned about the over investment in training as well, which is something that, again, everyone PNG has spoken about. You tried to bring that sort of approach to Quinn as well. Is that being possible with what you’re doing?
To an extent. I mean, the sort of commercial reality of club rugby is challenging, but it’s a bit more bespoke, I guess, around individuals and training and development a little bit on a day by day basis and some external courses and leaning on people externally and they sort of mentors agency partners and people like that. So they’re sort of good tools. We work with two circles a lot around our data and they help deliver a lot of our training and GDPR work and segmentation work. So they’ll be a good example of how we partner to minimise our training costs, I guess, but ultimately benefit from real experts.
I do remember talking to again, I’ve forgotten who this was, but it was one of those moments that really opened my eyes. Said when you go into the commercial end of a sports club, everybody works and no one does any training. When you go into the performance end of the sports club, everybody spends most of their time training and works just one day a week. Effectively calling the match day work was interesting, but it’s like they spend the whole week training, for one thing, you spend the whole week working and never training. Why don’t you spend it around the other way? Why don’t you do more training? Yeah, the commercial outlets don’t work, but it was an interesting way of looking at it that I thought was really interesting. But you have to cut your cloth accordingly, don’t you do.
Andi you’ve got to focus on results, ultimately of what works as a balance.
So where do you go next then? You’ve got the big summer event kicking off this week or last week, whenever you’re listening, you’ve then got the summer off and that’s brilliant, isn’t it? You just go away for three months, put your feet up, come back in August and the crowd is just rolling in September. That’s how marketing works, isn’t it? Yeah.
Well, maybe once it’s not long ago, we’re really quickly into. We’ll do some debriefing. We need to assess how the season has gone and what we can learn from. We do some reports, we’ll get together with our coaches and our chief executive and people like that and we’ll debrief visibility, engagement Andi what we can do next and bigger and better. We’ve already signed off budgets and strategies and targets for next year and then we’ll launch a new kit partner shortly. We’ll then prep into where we’ll get into season and our tickets, match tickets. We’ll go on sale Andi try to build a bit of a ballot process for that and some urgency. Try to get off a fast start to the season and then we’ll be straight into sort of promoting our big games and events Andi match day. And the rhythm comes here because of the ecomm element of the job. It’s often seven days a week. You’re always on, but the cycle of the season, it definitely does get a little bit quieter when you’re not playing a home game. And the season being live is definitely busier, but that sort of downtime, I would say, is actually probably a week or two in the summer rather than months off now.
Yeah, if only I want to finish. You mentioned the kit deal there and I realised it’s something that probably skipped past entirely. But I think kit deals are probably one of the great misunderstood things in sports, because people tend to only read or find out about kit deals when they see Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, England, maybe that’s about it. And those kit deals are quite different to almost every other kit deal in any other spot anywhere in the land, aren’t they? But not so much the terms and conditions of the deal, but it must be quite not a difficult process, but an involved process to get the right deal for everybody. In club rugby, where the shirt sales aren’t necessarily of a level that they are at.
Say, Premier League football, definitely. So I think we’ve looked at a few factors when assessing the market and running through a competitive pitch for who produces our kit. One is around brand and its appeal Andi its strength. Two is around their ability to copromat and build a sort of licence plan from that. And then there’s a commercial element of that as well, about how the fee is structured and the pieces there. And those three things need to come together. Andi guess the fourth we’ve added this time is around the flexibility in the product and the product offering something we feel is really crucial that hasn’t always been there, isn’t there, in sport at the moment, is around a women’s specific kit. We know that that’s really important to us and to our support base that we’ve got that within our portfolio. So that’s something we’ll shortly be launching.
Queens have got a really recognisable kit that does change a little bit season to season, but again, how does that come from a creativity element for that? Because the Queen’s kit is you can pick it out from 1000 yards, can’t you? Andi you must be from a brand perspective, there must be some really tight limitations on what is Andi isn’t allowed to change.
Yeah. Sold us with the third most famous kit in the world in rugby Andi in their research behind the All Blacks Andi the Springboks, we’ve got a quarter kit for anyone who’s not sort of seen hours. So, yeah, there’s only so much you can do with a quarter when it’s so distinctive Andi bold. So we’re a little bit more creative with some of the effects we add into that, some of the shapes and styles and the sleeves and shorts, et cetera. And then it really comes a bit storytelling of how we launch these things and it’s meaning, but I can absolutely buy into it. They really love the kit and it’s so distinctive. So it’s something that’s obviously a sense of identity for the club that we really boldly market around so we will see on the weekend it’s the big summer kick off event.
Is that what it’s called? Big summer kick off event? I’ve read it perfectly from my notes over here that I couldn’t find Harlequin shirts all around southwest London everywhere. Great day out Craig David who by used to be my go to fancy dress. If you have to go somewhere fancy dress I used to go to Craig David so if you can’t turn up at the weekend give us a shout I’ll be at ecomm and do some lip syncing for you. It will be all good look there’s some great challenges coming up over the year Adrian thank you very much for your time and good luck. Let’s see if we can take all the trophies home next.
Thanks Andi been a real pleasure.